We got up early today, had our ‘pineapple’ breakfast and got ourselves ready to go to the Polynesian Cultural Center.
Our tour guide Ken (shortened version of his Samoan real name!) and bus driver Vau picked us up outside the Hyatt Regency Hotel and we all set off for the PCC at about 10:30am. The bus journey took about an hour and 20 minutes, but we were entertained along the way with Ken’s island jokes and humour.
The journey was very picturesque and we caught glimpses of some of the most perfect beaches I have ever seen. On the way Ken pointed out some landmarks – the China Man’s Hat Island, and Turtle Island – gaining their names from their obvious shapes!
After parking up and leaving the bus, we picked up our Ali’i Luau Tickets and started our journey into Polynesian Culture and history. Our ticket covered the 6 island villages of Samoa, Aotearoa (NZ Maori),Tonga, Fiji, Hawaii, and Tahiti, and also a film at the IMAX theatre. The ticket also included a canoe tour, dinner at a traditional Hawaiian Luau (BBQ), and good seats at the famous ‘Ha! Breath of Life’ after dinner show.
Our first stop was at the village of Samoa, where we were first entertained with clapping songs, and traditional island music. After the audience had been warmed up, we saw the ‘natives’ splitting coconuts with a stone, then carving out the inside and squeezing coconut milk from the resultant pulp. The presenter then showed us how the Samoans would start a fire for cooking, by using coconut hair and a big and small branch from a coconut tree. This guy made it all look extremely simple, but I know it would have probably taken me hours to do!! Finally we were treated to another native demonstrating how easy it was to climb to the top of a coconut tree…this guy was fast – he was at the top before you knew it! A great first experience at the village…and a very interesting and entertaining one at that!
Next we moved on to the village of Aotearoa (Maori NZ). Before we could see the performance inside the chieftain’s house – we were shown the ‘friend or fore’ welcoming ritual which takes place in front of the main house. Spears are shaken and angry shouts directed at the ‘guests’ who are waiting at the gate. Once it is established that they are ‘welcome guests’ they are encouraged to enter the chieftain’s house…..we seemed to have been given the OK and all went inside to get a seat for the main performance. We saw how the men performed the Haka, how the women danced with Poi – white balls on a string that are twiddled around in circles and hit against the hands and body to make a sound. We also saw the stick-throwing game that both the men and women play.
The performance ended with one of the Maori ladies placing her hands gently over the green jade stone of peace.
Once the Maori presentation had come to an end, we made our way over to Tonga to see a performance with traditional Tongan drums. Again there was a clapping song and dance to get us all warmed up – we didn’t actually need any warming up really as the hot Hawaiian sunshine was streaming down on us throughout the day!! The Tongan performance involved a lot of audience participation which was very entertaining to watch!!
On leaving Tonga, we entered the village of Fiji, where we learnt a bit about the islands and culture of Fiji. We also had a quick lesson on how to play the bamboo stick instrument (by drumming different rhythms on the floor) before we took part in a group rendition of a traditional Fijian song.
When we left the village of Fiji, the canoe pageant was just about to start and so we found 2 seats with a good view. Before long, canoes/rafts from each village were punted up and down the river entertaining us with various pacific island music, dancing, and drumming. It was a really good show and you couldn’t help but tap your feet as each one went by!
We still had an hour to go before the luau began, so we hopped onto a canoe and took a tour up stream to the main canoe station. From there we popped into the IMAX theatre to watch a 3D documentary about coral reefs in the pacific islands.
After the IMAX show, we walked straight over to the Ali’i Luau restaurant and were seated with 4 other people. There were so many people there, it made you wonder if there would be enough food to go around!! We also received our real Lei garland of flowers which was nice! Seio’s one came with its own mini lizard…although actually I think the lizard may have been a stowaway and not part of the package!!
Once the pig was out of the oven, we waited our turn to be called for our food. Today we were able to try some traditional Hawaiian food like purple Taro bread, Poi, Lomi-lomi salmon, Chicken long rice (actually rice noodles!), BBQ chicken, beef jerky and island fish. It was all very nice and tasty and went lovely with the tropical punch (^^)v … Non-alcoholic of course! We also had dessert of cakes and pineapple! The pineapple is so delicious here…very sweet indeed.
Finally it was time for the highlight of the day – the ‘Ha! Breath of Life’ Show. This show was very well put together and involved all the dancing, shouting, chanting, drumming, fire-twirling, jumping, warrior fighting, and spear throwing of all the different Polynesian islands. It was an excellent performance and an extremely entertaining show.
I think the thing that struck me most about this place and all the shows was the smiles on the faces of all the people when they were talking about their own indigenous cultures. They just looked so relaxed and comfortable showing us all about the ‘everyday life’ of their respective cultures…
The bus left soon after the show to take us back to the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Waikiki. From there we made the short walk home to our hotel. It was a really enjoyable day today ….